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Columbia Seminary Faculty Launches Online Journal for Church Members


Decatur, GA.—“Theology after Disaster” is the theme of the inaugural issue of, an online journal to be published twice a year by the faculty of Columbia Theological Seminary. Instead of writing for fellow scholars, the Columbia faculty has church members in mind in establishing the journal. Each issue will focus on a particular topic from the perspective of a variety of theological disciplines and will include a lead article, response articles, and teaching resources to guide further discussion. There is no subscription fee for the journal, and all the content can be downloaded and reproduced without charge. Founding editors are Columbia faculty members Mark Douglas and Kathy Dawson. Douglas, associate professor of Christian ethics, also wrote the first issue’s lead article. In “Searching for Stars,” he asks why some theological responses to disasters seem unhelpful or, as he says, “flat-out wrong.” Fellow Columbia faculty members Kathleen O’Connor and William Harkins provided the response articles. O’Connor, a professor of Old Testament, suggests that no one can really prepare for disaster in a theological sense. She offers, however, the Book of Jeremiah as a model for response that is effective centuries after it was written. Harkins, assistant professor of pastoral care and theology, disagrees with Douglas’s suggestion that theology is a type of therapy that can be practiced after disaster. Resources provided in this issue include three lesson plans written by Dawson, who is assistant professor of Christian education, and an annotated bibliography by Andrew Richardson, pastor of Trinity United Church, Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Richardson is also a student in the seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program. “The Presbyterian Church (USA) provides outstanding training for ministers and excellent programs for children and youth,” Douglas says. “However, its educational materials for adult laity are sparse—especially in the area of cultural analysis. As a result, the very people the church sees as the heart of its mission have the least opportunity to continue their intellectual and spiritual growth. Time and time again, we hear from adult laity that they’re hungry for thoughtful and provocative resources to stimulate their growth in Christ.” With the new journal, Columbia’s faculty is attempting to fill this desire by publishing broadly accessible articles directed toward church members involved in adult Sunday school classes, small groups, and regular conversations with their pastors. Dawson says, “Although we imagine that ministers will be our most likely initial subscribers, they can easily pass on the journal to their members, who are our primary audience—those in the pews whose faith continually seeks understanding and social relevance. We are concerned with the quality of conversation in the church, so our journal intentionally models the project of seeking after wisdom through thoughtful and charitable disagreement.” Columbia Theological Seminary, located in Decatur, Georgia, was established in 1828 and is one of 10 theological institutions of the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

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